Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Cutting Edge Film Programme: Psycho (1960)

Figure 1: Movie Poster [Still Image]
Psycho (1960) is an American suspense, horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  It is a film based on a novel written by Robert Block in 1959 with the same name. The story got its inspiration partly from an actual event involving the infamous 50s serial killer from Wisconsin, Ed Gein.

The film revolves on the encounter between a secretary, Marion Crane, and Norman Bates. Bates is a quiet young man who seems to be dominated by his mother was the one who manages the motel. Crane finds herself retiring for the night at The Bates Motel after a long drive in a stormy weather. Earlier that day, she had embezzled her employer’s money of $40, 000 and left town. She did so as she saw this as an opportunity to start a new life with her lover, Sam, who was in California, which was several hundred miles away.

Figure 2: Marion Stopping over at the Bates Motel [Still Image]
From the start of the film, it can be seen that there was something strange and peculiar about Norman. Despite it all, this young man tries his best to behave like any other average person. His loneliness, staying and managing a secluded motel was fully understood because Anthony Perkins played his character’s role very precisely and brilliantly. As Ebert accurately observes in his review Perkins does an uncanny job of establishing the complex character of Norman, in a performance that has become a landmark. Perkins shows us there is something fundamentally wrong with Norman, and yet he has a young man's likability, jamming his hands into his jeans pockets, skipping onto the porch, grinning.” (Ebert, 1998)

Figure 3: Bates Standing By The Porch [Still Image]
Not only were the roles of each character was a success in terms of propelling the story forward but also the captivating visuals. An example of this would be the scene right before Marion was murdered. Guilt had consumed her and when she decided to return the money, she took a shower. 70 different angles, mainly close ups were used to create this scene.

Figure 4: Multiple Shots Of The Shower Scene [Still Image]
There was a reason why the camera was being placed at each angle. It was because Hitchcock wanted to tell a story and ensures that the audience would be affected emotionally afterwards. This statement is supported by when Hitchcock states in his journal article “The point is to draw the audience right inside the situation instead of leaving them to watch it from outside, from a distance. And you can do this only by breaking the action into details and cutting from one to the other, so that each detail is forced in turn on the attention of the audience and reveals its psychological meaning.”  (Hitchcock, 1937:62)

Just like the cinematography, sound and music score by Bernard Hermann was the contributing factors of what makes Hitchcock’s Psycho an unforgettable one. The soundtrack played a crucial role in this film as it helps to create the film’s atmosphere and delivers the narratives. Sullivan emphasized on the importance of Hermann’s contribution when he states "Herrmann’s music is inseparably linked with the film in the popular imagination; indeed, without it, Psycho would probably not exist.” (Sullivan, 2006: 243) Sullivan is accurate when he states that because take the shower scene as an example. The shrieking and the staccato violin did not only engage and conveyed the mood precisely but also enhances and dramatizes the action.

In conclusion, no matter how many times you watch this film on TV, you will not be prepared for it on the big screen, surrounded with anxious audience who are always at the edge of their seats. Total Film summarises this film accurately when they said, It's a darkly amusing, manipulative film that's still compelling in its vision of human desperation.” (Total Film, 1998)

Figure 5: Bates Smiling Sadistically [Still Image]

List of Illustrations:

Figure 1 Psycho (1960) [Poster] at (Accessed on 21 January 2014)

Figure 2 Marion Stopping over at Bates Motel (1960) [Still Image] at (Accessed on 21 January 2014)

Figure 3 Bates Standing At The Porch (1960) [Still Image] at (Accessed on 21 January 2014)

Figure 4 Multiple Shots of The Shower Scene (1960) [Still Image] at (Accessed on 21 January 2014)

Figure 5 Bates Smiling Sadistically (1960) [Still Image] at (Accessed on 21 January 2014)

List of Bibliography:

Ebert, Roger (1998) Psycho At: (Accessed on 21 January 2014)

Hitchcock, Alfred. (1937) ‘My Own Methods.’ In: Sight and Sound 6(22) pp. 61-63.

Sullivan, Jack  (2006) Hitchcock's Music Connecticut, USA Yale University Press

Total Film  (1998) Psycho At: (Accessed on 21 January 2014)


  1. Another thorough review; much better use of 'less cautious' language too! :)

    I think perhaps you have two paragraphs around the wrong way though? Under figure 3 - you start to talk about the theories of 'this scene', before you have actually introduced it...

    Also, just be careful of not typing too fast, and make sure you proof read it before posting - there a few incidents where your fingers seem to moving faster than your brain! :) Here for example -

    '70 over different angles'

    1. Thanks Jackie. I will be more careful next time :)